The saying has become quite cliche over the past few years, but despite my hesitance to use it, bowhunting truly is a full time job for those of us who take it seriously. The Illinois archery season has only been closed for 10 days and we're already planning for the fall. Priority one was to secure some additional hunting grounds closer to home for those times when a 10 hour round trip just isn't feasible. Not only will it save us some money on gas and wear and tear on our vehicles, but it will make our wives happy to have us home a little more often too! So like a good friend of mine says, we're starting from "Ground Zero" yet again this year.
Fortunately our good friend Brian Bychowski with Pine Ridge Archery was able to locate a potential lease for us in Northwest Illinois. Not wanting to wait and risk losing out to another group of bowhunters Brian, Mike Willand, and yours truly headed out this morning to check things out. With quite a bit of snow on the ground we figured both deer sign and the lay of the land would be easy to spot. So despite the single digit temperatures we headed out for a 2 hour walk to check things out.
Brian walking the edge of a standing corn field where we found quite a bit of deer sign.
This particular piece of land is made up of two distinct areas. One is several steep wooded draws bordered by agricultural fields, the other a mix of agriculture, old pasture ground, and some small draws loaded with raspberry thickets and cedars. So unlike our other hunting spot in the West Central part of the state, we have both bedding as well as food. With about 30 acres of standing corn divided up between three fields this particular farm was absolutely LOADED with deer sign. Considering we're in the middle of one of the snowiest winters in Illinois history and have had sub-zero temperatures quite frequently since the new year the deer are really drawn to this food soure, which is both good as well as bad. While we enjoy seeing all of the sign and knowing there's a lot of deer in an area we may potentially hunt, it also provides a false sense of what the property really holds for deer.
We found quite a few big beds like this one in several of the cedar thickets on the property, where the deer are no doubt resting up while trying to get out of the elements.
An easy way to spot a good fence crossing - deer hair caught in the barbed wire.
Overall, it looks like a spot with a lot of potential. Although we did find a treestand every 100 yards or so along the South edge of the property, which is common for most of Illinois, I think we're still going to go ahead and pick up this lease. The combination of food and bedding, along with some really good terrain features shows some definite promise and certainly beats not having a spot to hunt at all! Most likely we'll make a trip back near the end of February or beginning of March to look for shed antlers and possible clear a few stand sets for this fall. I really want to have all of our stands hung and/or cleared by the end of April this year and save ourselves the death of hanging stands during the heat of July and August. Come summertime all I want to be doing is shooting my bow and checking my trail cameras and that's it!
Standing corn - a deer's best friend come mid-January!
Another view of a standing corn field at the top of the wooded draws.
The heart of shed hunting season is only 2-3 weeks away now which means Mike and I will be hitting things pretty hard in search of some bone. We're planning to hit our lease down South as well as our local spots and try to pick up a few sheds from some of the bucks that gave us the slip this past season.
I will also be shooting in the Bowhunting.com Indoor Spots league as well, trying to hone my shooting skills a little bit more than last year so I don't choke and miss again!